Game of the Year 2009 – Nominees
Previous games I’ve given the title of Game of the Year have all had one large similar trait in that they’ve all managed to completely immerse me in the experience, to the point where I would go through the day constantly thinking about when I’d get another chance to get back into the game. While I still think 2008 was a better year than 2009, and last year’s 5 nominees are as a whole better than the 5 I’ve chosen this year, my nominees from this year all have that necessary trait of stealing hours of my time until I could do nothing but think about them.
Killzone 2 (2.27.09/Playstation 3/Sony Computer Entertainment/Guerilla)
I don’t quite know where to start with Killzone 2. Once the game released to unimaginable amounts of hype behind it, many questioned whether or not Guerilla was going to be able to live up to the promises made with that original CG trailer. After people got a chance to play it, it was absolutely apparent that Guerilla had come pretty damn close to matching the technical finesse of that trailer, possibly even surpassing it. You see, the final product of the game has one of the most striking art directions of any game to date. The over saturated colours, such as the dark red of bloodshed, or the glowing crimson eyes of the enemy in a blackened urban sprawl with blue lightning flashes in the sky constantly prove a sight for sore eyes. Graphics and presentation aside, Killzone 2 featured some of the smartest campaign design in any game this year. With some of the most intense set piece battles of any action game in 2009, rivaled by only a few other nominees, such as a vicious hour long battle on the steps of Visari Palace, or tearing through a desert sandstorm in a mech, Killzone 2’s campaign was simply eight hours of non stop excellence. The pacing was incredible, enemy intelligence impressive, and arsemal of weaponry unique. After that, it was the innovative multiplayer with forty-five minute shifting battles that continued to keep gamers glued to their seats. With an excellent set of DLC following the game throughout the year, Killzone 2 was and still is one of the most robust packages of 2009, and one of the frontrunners to be named overall Game of the Year.
Borderlands (10.20.09/Xbox 360,Playstation 3,PC/2K Games/Gearbox)
Borderlands is easily the surprise hit of the year. When people hear “half a million guns”, the general consensus is that it’s too ambitious, and that it can’t be done. Not only did Gearbox Software overcome this ambition, by getting it done, but the number of guns isn’t even the main attraction of Borderlands. The number of guns available in this FPS/RPG hybrid is merely a bullet point among several others including great shooting elements, a whimsical universe in which the action takes place in, and pretty impressive cooperative design. Yes, Borderlands can be played solo (in fact, it would probably still take up a nomination if I had dont just that), but it’s the coop and the contrast of each character which steals the show. Over 30 hours of gameplay on one simple playthrough, drop in/drop out multiplayer, and the neverending prospect of finding new loot, Borderlands is one of those games that grabs you by the balls and doesn’t really let go. With great art and humour, a decent story, a fantastic soundtrack, outstanding weapons, and a good mix of stat-based first person combat, Borderlands really came out of nowhere to T-bone the gaming industry for the better.
Assassin’s Creed II (11.17.09/Playstation 3,Xbox 360/Ubisoft)
The original Assassin’s Creed is a game I’ll never forget. While I loved the final product, there was still a large contrast between reality and what people expected. Instead of putting you in the shoes of a 12th century assassin and letting you do whatever, the game only gave the illusion of freedom while being incredibly repetitive and linear otherwise. This year, Ubisoft Montreal returned with Assassin’s Creed II, a game that is every bit as awesome as people expected the original game to be, and then a whole lot more. Completely scrapping the 3 tasks, then assassination mission design, Assassin’s Creed II took on a much more organic approach to an open world game, similar to Grand Theft Auto IV. Gone were the menial tasks and here were the relevant, story evolving missions. Upping the ante on nearly all fronts, from narrative, to combat animations, to overall size of the game, Assassin’s Creed II IS a game I’ll never forget, and an obvious nominee for overall Game of the Year.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (11.10.09/Xbox 360,Playstation 3,PC/Activision/Infinity Ward)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the biggest game of the year. Everybody is playing it, everybody owns it, and everybody likes it. A lot. It’s not really a wonder why it’s on my list of the 5 best games this year. I fall into the category of everybody. In fact, I own two copies of the game itself, one for Xbox 360, one for Playstation 3.
But popularity and sales numbers only go so far. Modern Warfare 2 is simply one big explosion of awesomeness. Although there are a few blemishes in particular to grenade launchers and double shotguns, there is no denying the greatness of it all. The campaign has one of the most controversial levels of all time, which is surrounded by several other missions that raise the bar for first person shooters in general. Racing down the side of a mountain on a snowmobile, infiltrating an oil rig from under the sea, and defending the suburbs of Virginia are just a few points to be made in the excellent campaign. Tag on the kick-ass Spec Ops mode with some of the most memorable moments from the Modern Warfare series, and the multiplayer which everybody is playing these days, and you can see that the accolades, popularity, and sales numbers do not go unjustified.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (10.13.09/Playstation 3/Sony Computer Entertainment/Naughty Dog)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is easily one of the best game of the year, because it literally has so few flaws that the few that are noticeable don’t have any sort of effect on the game of the player. Uncharted 2 moves the gamer from moment to moment which are all just as mindblowing as the last. Climbing up a dangling train car, robbing a museum in Istanbul using the new stealth system, getting chased by mercenaries in Borneo, traversing ice caves in Tibet, gunning down helicopters from a collapsing building, fighting on a moving train, and blowing up a convoy with a grenade launcher don’t even make up a quarter of the amazing set pieces in Uncharted 2. No other game on this list has the graphical muscle of Uncharted 2, or the ability to tell a story as well as this game, or as intense gameplay, the list goes on and on. Beyond that, there’s really dynamic and vertical multiplayer as well as a coop mode that will ensure playing the 10 hour campaign a dozen times isn’t a necessity, but still a possibility. To say Uncharted 2: Among Thieves deserves a spot on this list is an understatement. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of the best games of the decade.
So there you have it; check back later this month for the results in much anticipated numerical fashion. Which game do you think I’m going to pick for Game of the Year, what game do you think I should pick, and what game would you choose to crown?